Phantom limb syndrome describes feelings and sensations in limbs that no longer exist.

Overview and Symptoms

Though it is not completely known why phantom limb syndrome occurs, research shows that brain cells begin to rewire to accommodate a loss of a body part (neuroplasticity) after amputation, and in this process, there can be incidents where the brain attempts to connect to a body part that is no longer attached.

A patient with phantom limb syndrome may experience both neutral and negative perceptions of sensation in one or more missing limbs. Some sensations a patient may experience in the area where a limb used to be include:

  • Temperature change
  • Chronic pain
  • Itching
  • Pressure/touch
  • Vibration

Diagnosis and Treatment

Proactive measures can be taken before amputation to lessen the likeliness of developing phantom limb syndrome later on, such as administering certain medications. If the symptom still occurs, painkillers such as aspirin may be recommended.

Many phantom limb symptoms go away on their own as the patient adjusts to the loss of a limb. For those that continue to have intense symptoms, treatment focusing on the function of the brain—like meditation or mental therapy—can aid in recovery.

Learn More

The Arnold-Warfield Pain Center provides comprehensive care and leading-edge treatments for patients with chronic and complex pain conditions.

Visit the Pain Center